Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There

07 Feb 2022 - Thorsten

Ninja Tune | Release date: 04 Feb 2022 | Favorite song: The Place Where He Inserted The Blade

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Apart from the fact that one should always be proud of one’s children – especially if they do their best – today was one of the glory days for this author when our nine-year-old came to me while I was listening to Ants From Up There, the new record by Black Country, New Road. First and perfect comment: ”That is quite jazzy, huh, daddy? But it’s not real jazz!” So true, so proud!

When this London-collective jumped onto the global scene last year, it was like an explosion – ending in a Mercury Prize nomination and expectations sky-rocketing for this new album. And then one listens to it, secretly fearing this to be another Mumford & Sons-experience (you all know what I mean and you all were as disappointed as me). Adding the fact that front man, guitarist and singer Isaac Wood left the band four days prior to record release, this makes the listening session more than strange. Because – the record is such a boost of euphoria! How can that be under these circumstances?

How? Easy answer: Because they wrote good songs, arranged them cleverly and had a picture-perfect production for it.

How? Long answer: Well, the record is fun, it really is. One might feel the same shivers, when listening to the way that Isaac obsesses over Billie Eilish (he drops her many times in the lyrics), the way he croons and swoons, the little moments, when his voice breaks like only (namesake) Isaac Brook’s can still keeping the wonderful melancholic timbre. All of that makes a wonderful listen.

Ants From Up There sways between three poles treating each of them with equal respect: indie rock, jazz and post-rock and even finds time to think about Neo-classical music. Listen to a track like ”The Place Where He Inserted The Blade” and it will be hard not to think about Win Butler’s Arcade Fire or Brook’s Modest Mouse. ”Haldern” then again, is nothing but a wonderfully hushed jazz track (and already the fourth or fifth song I know title-wise connected to Haldern Pop Festival in western Germany). And the final ”Basketball Shoes” would be equally well-placed on a record by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Euphoria and fun are the two main emotions that the record provokes because the seven young music develop a pull-effect that would be able to lift either old Queen Elizabeth II from her throne or the QE2 from the slick sandbanks on the river Thames. On the basis of the really tightly rhythm section of Tyler Hyde on her bass and Charlie Wayne on the drums (both are always in-sync, yet never out-muscling the others), May Kershaw sometimes uses the keys like another rhythm instruments and reminds one why Ben Folds once was the hottest shit on this side of pianos and keys in general. But don’t forget the sometimes necessarily shrill bits and blops by violin player Georgia Ellery or the ever-so-song-obedient guitar work by Isaac and second guitar player Luke Mark.

I could ramble on for hours about why this record is such a fun one, why I will keep on spinning it this year or why everyone should listen to it, even though I can understand that the slightly hectic nature of the record can be too much for people. However, I think it’s better to leave with the third sentence of my wonderful daughter/newcomer-critic: ”That is quite jazzy, huh, daddy? But it’s not real jazz! But it’s gooood!”